The Black Keys - El Camino (Nonesuch) 

A friendly transition between sounds, and a 'place-holder' of what’s to come

The Black Keys

El Camino

Nonesuch

 

The Keys have now officially graduated from the laid-back "folk-blues" recording style, and have slung into the Top 40. From the start, this 38-minute, 11-jam collection doesn't catch on to the brilliance of 2008's home run Brothers, but producer (du jour) Danger Mouse has had a major pop influence on them. "Lonely Boy" keeps on track with electro funk beats, fuzzy guitar licks and spontaneous drumming (not to mention the hilarious video of the song), though "Little Black Submarines" comes off as a Dylan-influenced, folk-sounding piece that halfway erupts into a Zeppelin-influenced ballad. (The words in each song make no sense though; the Keys supposedly went to the studio sans lyrics and worked mainly on instrumentation.) The catchy "Run Right Back" is a worthwhile listen with its great riffs, sounding more like an outtake from the previous album. "Hell of a Season" is too much like Vampire Weekend's Contra, or it sounds like every single garage band in Michigan. (And we don't need another one.) "Mind Eraser" is the only song here that whiffs of blues familiarity; it brings us back to the old days in 2000, when two guys were just recording in their Akron, Ohio, garage, before becoming an overcommercialized pop band. The dig-down-deep rhythm and murky vocals are a remembrance to all things past and present. Think of this album as a friendly transition between sounds, and a sort of "place-holder" of what's to come.

 

Jarrett Koral is a local 13-year-old middle-school student. He also attends the School of Rock.

 

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